The University of Wyoming will resume its phased fall return plan Sept. 15, following a nearly two-week pause that helped stem an outbreak of COVID-19 among the campus community.
According to a news release from UW, that means the university is entering Phase 2 of the fall return plan, with the start of face-to-face instruction of first-year seminars that were scheduled to be in person beginning Sept. 7, as well as some pharmacy and other graduate courses. Students on campus include all those from Phase 1, along with all first-year students in the residence halls; freshmen taking face-to-face first-year seminars; all law students; students in the Literacy Research Center and Clinic; and first-year pharmacy students.
Bridge testing of employees and students on campus will continue, and campus buildings will reopen in a gradual manner. On-campus students, faculty and staff will continue using the COVID Pass tool for daily health screening of unexpected symptoms. During all phases this fall, everyone on the UW campus is required to wear face protection and practice 6-foot physical distancing, as outlined in the university’s COVID policy.
“The pause succeeded in allowing us to get a better handle on the testing data and in taking necessary actions to help limit transmission of the virus,” President Ed Seidel said. “Now, we’re ready to resume the phased return plan, with additional measures in place to keep the campus as safe as possible. For us to avoid another pause and proceed to the next phase Sept. 28, everyone — on campus or off — must adhere to those measures and avoid large off-campus gatherings where distancing and/or face protection are not employed.”
The president notes that while the traditional student-age population may not be as negatively impacted by the virus as people of other ages, many of the members of the communities that support the student on-campus experience include people at higher risk.
“It is UW’s responsibility to take into consideration all our community members in the requests of everyone to wear face protection, maintain distancing and follow safe practices at off-campus gatherings,” Seidel said. “For us to be successful, UW’s infrastructure has to be kept healthy, and it takes everyone to achieve this at the highest level possible.”
Since Friday, there have been 27 new cases of COVID-19 reported among UW students and employees — all but four of them detected in the university’s bridge testing program of asymptomatic individuals through Vault Health, which experienced a backlog of tests due to the Labor Day holiday and last week’s inclement weather. Twenty of the new cases are students; seven are employees. Three students living off campus who were exhibiting symptoms, and one without symptoms, were found to be infected in tests conducted by external providers.
That brings the total number of active cases among the UW community to 93 — 16 students living on campus, 64 students living off campus and 13 employees living off campus. Some 175 people are in 14-day quarantine due to exposure to infected individuals — 27 on campus and 148 off campus. The total number of COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 171.
“We know the virus is here, but we have been able to manage it in a manner that has kept our campus relatively safe,” Seidel said. “As the situation has changed rapidly and our understanding of the disease is growing, we’re developing new indicators and tactics to stay on top of it at UW. Everything we have done has one goal, and that is to be able to safely provide an in-person campus experience for the UW community.”
During Phase 3, scheduled Sept. 28-Nov. 20, all students are welcomed to campus, and courses will be delivered with a mixture of in-person and online instruction. In-person student activities will be expanded, and many campus buildings will be open, including Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center (likely by appointment). The university will operate a surveillance testing program under which all students, faculty and staff who come to campus will take saliva tests at least once a week, according to the release.
During Phase 4, scheduled Nov. 23-Dec. 11, all courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave the residence halls, except for those granted exceptions. Campus buildings will shift to restricted access, and the surveillance testing program will continue for those remaining on campus.
More information about the pause is available at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions may also call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.